Authors: Brenda Adcock
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Lesbian, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery & Detective
last call the night before had been to Wendell Pauli, a retired San Antonio
vice detective. I had known Pauli since my rookie reporter days in San Antonio,
and although I wasn't sure how much help a vice cop would be, he might be able
to steer me in the right direction. Pauli's wife had died a couple of years
earlier, and he claimed his kids had disowned him long before that. He sounded
sober on the phone, but after all the years that had passed, I wasn't sure what
directions to his house were precise and contained only four or five turnoffs.
It wasn't a great neighborhood now, but once upon a time it had obviously been
at least upper middle class. Like all older neighborhoods, however, the whole
area had eased, not so gracefully, into an economic decline. Large trees lined
Pauli's street and had been there long enough to buckle the sidewalks in front
of a few places. Most of the houses were split-level ranch-style homes, and a
number of them appeared to be vacant. The newest part of each house seemed to
be burglar bars. By the time I located the address Pauli had given me, I saw
that it was the only house without burglar bars, almost an invitation to
burglars. A low well-trimmed hedge ran from the sidewalk to the house, and
there was a slight embankment broken by a couple of cement steps.
rang the doorbell and waited, I noticed there was a conspicuous absence of
children or children's toys in the yards of the houses along the street and
guessed that most of the inhabitants were well beyond their childbearing years.
Pauli finally opened the front door, I almost asked if I had the right house.
There was absolutely no resemblance to the Wendell Pauli in my memory bank. His
head was a hairless cueball with a single, gray-black eyebrow separating his
forehead from the rest of his face. He weighed at least a hundred pounds more
than I remembered, and evidence of too many big meals and too many beers hung
over the waistband of his pants. His black T-shirt, emblazoned with "I
Love My Attitude Problem," looked two sizes too small, and a well-chewed
cigar was clinched tightly between his teeth.
pushed the front screen door open and motioned me inside without saying a word.
I followed him down a dark hallway and into a small room that had been
converted into an office. As he plopped down in a well-worn leather chair
behind a scarred wooden desk, I could see that he either hadn't been up long
enough to shave or had decided it wasn't a top priority today.
ain't changed much, Carlisle," he rumbled in a voice much deeper than I
remembered, probably the result of abusing his vocal chords and lungs for
decades with tobacco.
say the same for you, Pauli. I thought I had the wrong house for a
any trouble findin' the place?" he asked, ignoring my remark.
You give excellent directions," I said as I looked around the office.
Dozens of city and state citations hung on the walls, but it lacked the usual
personal pictures you'd expect to see. Maybe he was telling the truth about his
family, and there was no love lost among them.
know you had a kid."
ex and I adopted him so I guess I'm a step-something. I haven't seen either one
of them in about fifteen years."
now she expects you to bail the kid out."
doesn't expect it, but she asked if there was anything I could do," I
said. I knew that if there had been another human being on the planet Cate
thought could help she wouldn't have contacted me. "That's why I'm
here," I continued.
do you expect me to do for you?"
took a few minutes to explain what I had already learned, which admittedly
might be able to do somethin' about findin' out the shooter's name, and the Ivy
Leaguers he runs with," Pauli said. He got up and pulled open a file
drawer and thumbed through a drawerful of manila folders. "I brought
copies of all my files with me when I retired," he said as he continued
still have informants?"
now and then I drop in on a few of 'em just for fun. If I didn't keep my hand
in, even a little bit, I'd probably go off the deep end."
pulled five or six folders from the drawer and pushed it shut with his hip
before sitting down again.
you what, Carlisle. Let's take a run down to the precinct where they're holdin'
the shooter and see if I can pick up the name. If that don't work, I'll go over
to the public defender's office and pass myself off as active duty. Those damn
yuppies at the PD's office never know what to do when they're confronted. If
you're real lucky, they'll have a rookie assigned to the case. So leave that
part to me."
say you ain't talked to your kid yet?"
don't want him to know his mother asked me for help," I said. "He
already hates my guts. No sense in turning him against her as well."
like me and my family." Pauli grunted. "Okay, then I'll take that
do you have in mind?"
drop by his room and do a little interrogatin'. He might inadvertently let
somethin’ useful slip about this big story he's workin' on. But honestly, Jo,
illegals..." He shook his head.
know. Illegals aren't a big story. It's got to be something deeper than that,
Pauli. Maybe it just started with illegals and then got off into something
any brilliant thoughts on that one?"
yet, but tomorrow morning I'm searching his apartment."
smiled. "I don't suppose you got permission to do that."
ex gave me the key. That good enough?"
It ain't her apartment."
just looking around. I won't take anything."
me know if you need any help. I got one of those spy camera gizmos if you need
it. Don't have any film for the damn thing though."
get some just in case, but there might not be anything to find."
stood up and held my hand out. "I appreciate this, Pauli. Let me know how
much time you spend on this, and I'll reimburse you."
slapped my hand. "I ain't no private dick, woman. Just the fun will be
payment enough. You know how much I like roustin' folks." He laughed.
picked up the folders and handed them to me. "Hang onto these while I get
into somethin' a little more official-lookin'. You can wait in the car while I
see what I can find out. Won't take long."
minutes later, Pauli came into the living room wearing a blue two-piece suit
over a white shirt and adjusting a red and white striped tie. From the look of
the suit, I doubted he could button it. He had shaved the stubble from his face
and rubbed at it absently. Following him out a back door and into a two-car
garage, we climbed into an old, tan Chrysler Belvedere.
the touch of a button clipped on the visor, the garage door ground open. Pauli
threw the car in reverse and backed down the drive onto the street. Cursing
other drivers as incompetent morons, he broke every traffic law I was familiar
with on the ride to the police precinct. I was forced to close my eyes more
than once, fighting the impulse to tighten my seatbelt, and breathed a sigh of
relief when he finally whipped the vehicle into the parking lot of the police
station and slammed on the brakes. For a man his size, he was amazingly nimble
as he exited the car and trotted toward the entrance to the building, stopping
long enough to speak to a couple of officers he passed on the sidewalk. They slapped
shoulders and spoke briefly before he continued into the building.
nothing else to do while I waited, I glanced through the folders he had given
me. What lay in front of me were some of the pathetic dregs of San Antonio
underlife. Most were petty criminals no one would want to run into in a dark
alley. By the time I finished reading the last folder, Pauli was pulling open
the driver's door. He wedged himself behind the wheel and turned the key in the
ignition and winked.
a cake," he said with a smile. "The shooter is one Fernando Acevedo,
age eleven years and seven months. Just under the limit."
a kid turns twelve the state can declare him an adult in serious cases. Under
that and juvenile detention is practically a done deal. Also got an address and
mama's name. Wanna check out the homeboy's neighborhood and shake a few trees
to see if anything falls out?"
can do it alone if you want."
that where the shooting took place?"
The kid must have used public transportation, or someone dropped him off. They
recovered the weapon, but surprise, surprise, no serial number. A real hunk of
feel dumb asking this, Pauli, but where did the shooting happen?"
lot of the Light. Stupid little fuck wouldn't have been caught if he hadn't
hung around a little too long."
backed out of the parking space and drove like a man possessed until we were
within a few blocks of Acevedo's address. The area wasn't just economically
deprived; the economy had never reached this section of town. For a fleeting
moment it crossed my mind that if I were a kid living there, I might take a
hundred bucks to shoot someone, too. Drunks from the night before were still
curled up in doorways and down alleys. There were plenty of children around,
but none of them looked like they were on their way to school even though it
was a school day. Everything about the buildings and street was oppressive. I'd
seen better conditions in Fourth World countries. For a booming metropolis —the
ninth largest city in the United States —prosperity obviously wasn't evenly
distributed, and I wondered how many of the people living here were legal.
Pauli interrupted my thoughts.
ain't one of them folders on a guy named Mercado?"
think so," I said, looking quickly through the folders again. "Yeah,
David Mercado. Why?"
there the hunk of shit is," Pauli said, pointing to a shaggy-headed man
who appeared to be in his late thirties. He was shuffling down the sidewalk
wearing jeans with holes at the knees and in the back pockets. I had seen kids
shell out big bucks for similar attire, but in Mercado's case, the holes were
not a fashion statement.
swung the car across the street next to the man and rolled the window down.
man looked surprised, as if he hadn't seen the car pull over. A scraggly beard
covered the lower part of his face, and he blinked incessantly as he looked at
us. Pauli opened his door and stepped from the car. As I got out, Pauli
motioned for Mercado to join us near the rear of the Belvedere. Mercado looked
around to see who else was on the street before moving. He jammed his hands
into the pockets of his dirty jeans and shifted his weight to one foot.
heard you was retired, Pauli," he said in a hoarse voice.
believe everything you hear, Davey."
the bitch?" Mercado asked, nodding toward me.
partner. I need some information about a case."
need to get laid. So what?"
more like you need a fix to me."
I'm clean now, man," Mercado said as he pulled a hand from his pocket and
ran it under his nose.
chuckled. "Yeah, right. You know a kid named Fernando Acevedo?"
He lives a couple of blocks from here."
got a real fine-lookin’ mama," Mercado said as he closed one eye against
the sun and squinted at us.
know." Mercado shrugged. "Maybe."
he was, which boys would be his?"
laughed derisively. "You goin' senile or somethin', ol' man? You know
whose turf this is."
more unusual than normal been hangin' around lately? Anybody from out of the
area kickin' up a little business with the Conquistadors?"
involved with bringin' in illegals?"
Pauli, they be mostly illegals theyselves. Bring more in and all they gonna do
is make their own gang. Conquistadors don't need no fuckin' competition."
in charge now?"
holdin' court in the same place?"
pulled his wallet out and waved a twenty at Mercado. It was the first time he
looked awake since Pauli stopped him.